University plans major, 13,000-acre timber sale in Chilkat Valley

This map shows 13,426 acres of land scattered throughout the Haines Borough that the University of Alaska owns that's in negotiations for a timber sale.
This map shows 13,426 acres of land scattered throughout the Haines Borough that the University of Alaska owns and is negotiating a timber sale of. (Courtesy of the University of Alaska)

The University of Alaska is negotiating a timber sale on more than 13,000 acres of its land in the Haines Borough. The estimated volume of the 10-year deal is far greater than any timber sale in the Haines area in recent history.

The university’s 13,426 acres are scattered throughout the borough. Most of that acreage is located across the Chilkat and Klehini Rivers or across the Chilkat Inlet from Haines.

That includes a piece of land near the Davidson Glacier and a few smaller portions close to town.

The university says it received interest in the timber on its Haines parcels, and is entering into a 10-year negotiated sale.

Christine Klein is the chief facilities and lands officer at the university. She spoke at a Facilities and Land Management Committee meeting on Tuesday.

“We have received a formal letter of interest from an international buyer for our holdings in the area for really the long term, for a 10-year term,” said Klein.

The sale is estimated at around 100 million board-feet.

Lynn Canal Conservation’s Executive Director Elsa Sebastian calls that number “alarming.”

“A hundred million board-feet means that we’re not talking about a local sale,” Sebastian said. “We’re talking about an outsider coming in, cutting our trees and likely exporting as many as possible overseas.”

That goal trumps the size of other recent Haines-area timber sales. In 2015, the state Division of Forestry moved forward with the Baby Brown Timber Sale. At 855 acres and 20 million board-feet, it was set to be the largest sale in the Haines State Forest in 20 years. That sale was delayed after a successful appeal of the land use plan. The state is preparing to put it back out to bid.

The Board of Regents approved the development and disposal plan for the university sale at a meeting this week, authorizing it to move forward.

The university acreage includes Sitka spruce, western hemlock, cottonwood and birch. Klein said the market for cottonwood is new.

“It’s for an existing market species, as well as for a new market for cottonwood type hardwoods for furniture,” said Klein.

Sebastian said the harvest of cottonwood is concerning.

“We are somewhat concerned to hear the potential for large scale harvest of cottonwood,” Sebastian said. “Especially so near the bald eagle preserve, considering that cottonwood is important habitat used by nesting bald eagles.”

According to Klein, the details are still being negotiated. She couldn’t say who the interested buyer is or how the timber will be harvested.

Klein clarified this sale is different from one on the Chilkat Peninsula that the university put out to bid in 2017.

“This is not the area, the Chilkat 400 acres that you saw in the fall,” said Klein. “This is a separate development program.”

That sale, in Haines’ Mud Bay neighborhood, was introduced amid a local conversation about whether to limit resource extraction.

It drew concerns from throughout the community. But the university didn’t receive any bids. Ultimately, it decided to develop that land for a residential subdivision.

Klein said interest in that sale led to this negotiation. It’s expected to generate $10 million in revenue.

The university is accepting comments on the development and disposal plan for the sale through April 19. Klein said her office is also planning to schedule an information session in Haines in the next few months.

The university plans to award a timber contract by the end of July.

KHNS - Haines

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